Office: (44) (0) 5603 676623  |  Independent Communications Consultancy based Westminster, London SW1
Office: (44) (0) 5603 676623  |  Independent Communications Consultancy based Westminster, London SW1

Digital Communications Index: Moroccan Railways

MENA Railways Digital Communications Index: Moroccan Railways

المكتب الوطني للسكك الحديدية 

Moroccan National Railways Office

l’Office National des Chemins de Fer « ONCF »

All images in this post © ONCF Moroccan Railways unless otherwise stated.

ONCF Morocco Boraq High Speed Train

Introduction

Few railway systems in the world have experienced such a fundamental programme of reconstruction and transformation as Morocco’s has in the past decade. Perhaps most famous is that Morocco in 2018 joined the elite club of countries that can boast genuine High Speed Trains on dedicated High Speed Lines. In this case it was entirely modelled on the French TGV/LGV model with French support and became the first such network in Africa.

As well as a considerable reduction in journey times between Morocco’s major cities, and an increase in frequencies, the modernisation programme tore up and reconstructed the entire passenger experience. Where previously passenger bought tickets on slow ‘classic’ trains, ONCF harnessed digital technology to enable online bookings and reservations. 

The High Speed network was officially named Al Boraq in 2018, with the name meaning ‘lightning’ and referencing the legendary horse that conveyed certain prophets. The Boraq network overlays the classic lines and has enabled a huge boost to capacity around the network. Classic lines are being upgraded, for example with the doubling throughout of the Casablanca-Marrakesh line.

ONCF Morocco Amazigh language homepage

Removing express trains from classic lines gives the space to run more frequent passenger trains, but also to upgrade the service to freight customers and ONCF have been aiming to increase market share in various freight sectors. 

ONCF’s digital communications reflects all of this transformation with a sophisticated array of communications across every major platform. Since the digital communications were also rebuilt and relaunched just 2 years ago there is a coherent brand image that aims to make rail travel a normal but aspirational part of travel. The strategy appears to be working. For the purposes of this MENA Railways Digital Communications Index, I’m happy to report ONCF scores the maximum 12/12. Bravo!

The maximum score is all the more remarkable in that it crosses multiple languages. Arabic and French form the core with websites in both languages. But Morocco goes even further and has two more websites in Amazigh (ie Berber) and English. 

1-2 Is there a website and is it ‘alive’?

In fact there are 4 websites and they’re new and useful. So although this section scores the maximum 2 points it feels like the score should actually be higher! The websites are in French, Arabic, English and Amazigh.

With good navigation at the top, and a large slider of images showing the glamour of rail travel, the visitor immediately sees the booking box in the centre of the screen. From there choose your service and book your ticket online. So the customer journey is smooth and unobtrusive. 

All four websites have similar layout and contents with five main sections for the ONCF company activities, links for passengers, links for potential freight customers, a section on the 7 major infrastructure projects currently underway; and a special section on Al Boraq high speed services. There are full schedules and maps, facts, figures and history, but no blog section.  

3. Is there an app?

The ONCF app exists in both Android and Apple forms and has reasonable ratings. I could sign up for the Apple version, download it and see the various sections it contains. Unfortunately being outside Morocco seems to cause problems for both versions of the app according to various user comments. So score 1 point. 

4. Can you buy tickets online?

Yes, you can buy tickets online using the website and the app, so score 1 point. 

5. Is there live running information?

Yes, on the app, so score 1 point. 

ONCF social distancing information advert

6. Is there a Twitter account?

ONCF runs @ONCFgroup, an up-to-date Twitter account with nearly 33,000 followers, so score 1 point.

There are a range of striking graphics for social media which recur across the channels, such as this one to educate passengers about social distancing during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

7. Is there a Facebook page?

Yes, the Facebook page is ONCF’s main social media channel with high engagement for posts. The page uses regular posts with multiple campaigns and is well-established with approximately 1.6 million followers. So score 1 point. 

8. Is there a YouTube channel?

Yes, the YouTube channel is a busy place, with an impressive 157 videos dating back to 2012. More than half of these are products of the past 3-4 years and they chart the final stages of building the Boraq network, plus the opening and operations since 2018. The YouTube channel has 16,000 subscribers. so score 1 well-earned point. 

There is a range of videos from 3-4 minute explainers to short snippets lasting a few seconds. They’re branded and have good production values and cover all aspects of the railway including future plans. It’s interesting that many of the videos are in French. 

9. Is there an Instagram account?

Yes, and it carries most of the graphics visible on the other social media sites. Although this seems the quietist of ONCF’s social media channels, the fact it exists and is done well scores 1 point. 

10. Can you subscribe to a newsletter?

Yes, there’s a section near each webpage footer where interested visitors can input their email address to receive newsletters. I got an autoresponder verification email when I subscribed but nothing since. I trust I shall receive a newsletter in due course however so score 1 point.

ONCF animated advert. There are 4 for ONCF.

11. Is there evidence of campaigns? 

Yes, there are multiple campaigns on video, social media and, presumably, at stations and in printed form. So score 1 point. It being 2020, in addition to Ramadan and Eid greetings, there are campaigns about hygiene, cleanliness and social distancing during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Naturally there are numerous campaigns covering the current infrastructure projects and also about the transformations wrought by the new Boraq network. 

12. How does the overall engagement feel?

Score 1 point.

Conclusion. 

It’s a real pleasure to see ONCF Morocco score full marks with 12/12. 

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